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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Plain Sense

Here's the claim: "Absolute faith in the plain sense of Scripture turns a Christian into a fool and the Bible into a graven idol."

Here's the problem. Since "the plain sense" of any writing is currently undefined in our world, the claim makes no sense. The modern approach is that words mean what you want them to mean. The current idea of "the plain sense" of any writing is that it is what you think it is. Apply your meaning to the words as you would please and that is what you will call "the plain sense" and we will go with that. "Do you disagree with it? Clearly you disagree with the plain sense. What's wrong with you? Can't read very well, or just stupid? Or worse?"

There is, in the realm of judicial interpretation, including constitutional interpretation and other legal interpretation, a rule called "the plain meaning rule" or "the literal rule." Now, I find it odd that such a rule would exist, but, looking around me, I can see that it is clearly necessary. So the rule states that statutes are to be interpreted using the ordinary meaning of the language of the statute. I mean ... duh! And, yet, this is unacceptable when we read our Bibles.

It's called "the golden rule of biblical interpretation": "When the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense lest it result in nonsense." It is, of course, no longer "golden." As our initial claimant stated, such a notion makes Christians fools. But the question still hangs in the air. What does "the plain sense" actually mean? Does it mean solely and always "woodenly literal"? Well, in the "golden rule" here that would absolutely be false. It clearly says, "When the plain sense makes good sense ...", requiring, "Sometimes the plain sense does not make sense." Obvious examples spring to mind. Jesus was not claiming to be a literal door (John 10:7,9) and the entire city did not show up to hear Him speak (Mark 1:33).

So "plain sense" doesn't mean "woodenly literal." It is, I believe, almost exclusively the domain of fools that would interpret all Scripture solely in a woodenly literal sense. When God breathed His Word to the authors that wrote it, He had something to get across. The authors had something they wanted to say. The entire process was intended to convey a meaning -- a plain sense. We have to take into account genre and historic context, culture and language, text and context, but in the end the aim is to find the plain sense -- the meaning of what they meant to say.

I believe we should read the Bible in its plain sense. We should take it at face value. And immediately you are required to ask, "What does that mean?" Because words have no faces, so taking it "at face value" has to mean something other than the actual words mean. In the same way, when I say we should read the Bible "in its plain sense," I don't mean "in a coldly literal way." I mean "as it was intended to be understood." And that may take some effort. Was Jesus a literal door? No, of course not. We can figure out He was offering a metaphor. Does God forget sin (Jer 31:34)? Only if He actually is not Omniscient (1 John 3:20; Isa 46:9-10; Psa 139:16). In other words, if you are to get the plain sense of Scripture, you will need to read it, read the context, read the book, and read the rest of Scripture. The best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture, and getting to that will be a lifetime project. What it is not is interpreting Scripture in light of headlines or modern philosophy or current morality or the like. That doesn't let God speak. That doesn't take God seriously. That is man-made religion.

If the Bible truly is God-breathed and if "plain sense" is understood as "the sense in which the author intended it to be taken", absolute faith in the plain sense of Scripture will conform a Christian to God's way of thinking; to fail to do so makes God to be a liar in His Word. The Bible, then is not an idol; it is trust in God that gives Scripture its worth. The question is not "Should you take God at His Word, with all the work that such a notion would entail?" The question is "Will you?" Because to fail to trust God's plain meaning turns so-called Christians into fools and strips God from His Word.

Monday, July 30, 2018


James wrote, "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8). Double-minded. It seems to be the standard rather than the exception.

I was looking at a display of works by a local artist. On a plaque was a quote from the artist. "I am certain that there is no absolute truth," the artist assured us. She went on to say that she wanted her work to cause people to see the beauty all around us without any allusion to truth. That is what I call "double-minded." She is absolutely certain of the absolute truth that there is no absolute truth. She intends people to see the absolute truth that there is beauty in everything. In fact, she's confident in the absolute truths that the paint would remain on the canvas, that gravity would continue to function, that her work and words had meaning, and that the sun would come up in the morning. She predicated her life and work on absolute truths while denying and predicating her life and work on the absence of such truths.

Remember the story of Elijah? He first appears on the Bible scene when he walks in to King Ahab and declares, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word." (1 Kings 17:1) Boom! And he's gone. He went into hiding while God took care of him (and others around him). Finally, after three years, God told him to show himself again to Ahab and He would send rain (1 Kings 18:1). Enter one of the best showdowns in history -- God versus Baal, God's lone prophet versus 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-40). With the people of Israel on hand, Elijah called out, "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him" (1 Kings 18:21). "How long will you be double-minded?" And the contest ensued. God, of course, won. But Elijah's question there was the same one I'm asking. How is "double-minded" good?

We all do it. I suppose we are all guilty at times. But some aim for it more than others. When someone declares, "We are inclusive, so we will exclude those who don't agree," they appear not to see the double-minded position. When someone says, "You people are so judgmental; we hate you hateful, judgmental people," they seem not to notice the double standard they employ. When they complain, "The Bible isn't a book of rules" in one sentence and then complain, "You're not following the rules in the Bible" in the next, how are we to respond? When they assure us, "We love God and His Word" while demanding that we don't declare what God and His Word declare, how are we to handle it?

"I hate the double-minded," the psalmist wrote, "but I love your law" (Psa 119:113). God's Word is not double-minded. "Submit yourselves therefore to God," James wrote. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you" (James 4:7-10). Being double-minded is a spiritual problem of pride, standing on truth while denying it. In James's example in the first chapter of his epistle, the double-minded man in view there was the one who prays for wisdom without believing God can or will give it (James 1:5-8). "Let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord" (James 1:7).

And so it goes. We live in a world filled with two standards, populated by double-minded people, with values and beliefs predicated on equal and opposing truth claims and value systems. It's not surprising, really, but I would hope that you would make an effort to not do it yourself.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Taking God's Name in Vain

"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain." (Exo 20:7)
We all know that one, right? And we all know what it means. Don't use God's name as a swear word. And while a lot of people even in the Christian world these days are no longer concerned about it, most Christians agree that the Decalogue, the 10 Commandments, are still in effect for Christians. So we should be careful about how we use the word "God", shouldn't we?

I suspect that we've missed the point.

First, biblically God has a name and it isn't "God." "God" is His title. His name is the Tetragrammaton -- YHWH in English. Latin made it "Jehovah" and more modern English speakers use "Yahweh", but biblically that is His name. (Note: It is the name in the command which most translations indicate with "LORD" (all caps).) Factor in that the Father is called YHWH, but God the Son is called Jesus, and we have some thinking to do about using God's name in vain. Finally, in Scripture, the term "name" doesn't necessarily refer to the noun assigned to designate the person. It generally refers to the character of the person to whom it refers. When we "pray in Jesus's name", for instance, it doesn't mean "Use the term, Jesus." It means "Ask God for what you want on the basis of the person and character of His Son." And, look, we use it that way ourselves sometimes. If we say, "They ruined his good name," we aren't suggesting "They changed his name from Bob -- a perfectly good name -- to Blob, a cruel thing to name him." No we mean that the name in question is the character and reputation of the person in question.

What we rarely think about is what it means to "use God's name in vain." We quibble over which name it is without thinking what it means to use it in vain. I would think that would be a serious consideration. According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Dictionary, the Hebrew word here means "emptiness, vanity, falsehood." It could mean to be false or it could mean to be worthless or it could mean to be empty. Vain. All three, I suppose, are aspects of the same concept. The warning, then, about "God's name" is a warning not about simply using it improperly in a sentence, but emptying it of value. When we empty God's character or reputation of value, we "take the name of the LORD your God in vain."

If that's true, then obviously any allusion to God (whether name or title, Father, Son, or Holy Spirit) that is void of value or truth would fall in this category. Using a reference to YHWH as "God" to express personal shock or surprise would seem to surely be to take His void the value of His name, His reputation, His character. But we do that in so many ways. I mean, there is the obvious use of "God" without any reference to God. But how often are we praying without actually thinking of God, invoking His name but distracted in our prayers? Have you found yourself in church singing praises to God while you're thinking about the work day tomorrow or whether or not they'll have donuts between services or some other non-God thing? I know that I have, to my shame, actually prayed out loud at times, thinking more about whether or not I am coherent and understood by those listening than by the One to whom I'm praying -- using God's name in vain. Oh, I know one. How about when you're singing in a worship service and thinking, "I hope I sound good to the people in the row in front of me." We do it. We do it too often. We do it to our own shame. We invoke God's name without actually thinking about God's character or worth. That's taking His name in vain. We refer to His character ignoring what He says about His character. Like when we defend God when unpleasant things happen but God says, "I am the LORD, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these" (Isa 45:6-7). God says, "I create calamity" and we say, "No, no He doesn't." We void His character.

I know. It's not on purpose. We all stray in many ways. I know, we're not aware of it. Now we are. Now we can get to work on that. You're welcome.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

News Weakly - 7/28/18

Slippery Slope Fallacy
I have often said that the slippery slope fallacy -- "If you do X, then Y will happen" -- is not a fallacy if it actually happens. Like what could possibly go wrong by putting a guy who believes he's a girl into a women's prison? "Don't be silly. That's the slippery slope fallacy. That wouldn't happen." Except it did.

Missing the Point
A new Arizona law took effect July 1st. This new law requires that embryos (the fertilized eggs that are the product of IVF) be given to the spouse (or ex-spouse) who plans to use them to have a baby. Apparently the law is about "embryos are life" and that sort of thing, but no one is getting it. Those in favor say it supports a partner's rights to his or her embryos. Those opposed say it will force people to become parents against their will. (Because, after all, they didn't willfully engage in fertilizing those eggs, right?) An attorney for an ex-husband whose ex-wife would benefit from this law complains, "You are hoping to move on and you've got an ex who is essentially asking you to impregnate them and have this lingering lifelong tie with them." Mean old ex-wife.

Of course, nowhere in the story is the mention that babies are involved. And nowhere in the law is there protection for babies who are not wanted. "neither of you want these? Fine ... flush 'em." The article did say, "Some abortion rights advocates also have concerns the law is aimed at establishing the 'personhood' of unborn embryos, which they say could have consequences for women's reproductive rights." That's right. Because they cannot demonstrate that these are not an early stage of what is clearly human, so they allow for the murder of "non-person humans" and don't want that terminated.

Unclear on the Concept
So, Iran warns the U.S., "Don't mess with us. Peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, but war with Iran is the mother of all wars." Fine. Bluster. Put that on "ignore". Not the leader of the free world. Trump tweeted, "SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE." He put it in all caps. Really, Mr. President? Threatening war because a tiny Middle East country made a stupid comment?

Don't worry. He wasn't done. On the very heels of that little fiasco, the news comes out that the president seeks to tell the States what they can and cannot do about their own environmental standards. Like it or not, California has some high standards for eliminating pollution and such. Trump wants to tell them they can't do that. Mr. President, please read the Constitution. It might save you some embarrassment. The 10th Amendment states that "the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." End of story.

There You Have It
So, the New York Times has finally done it. They've broken the story about how that nasty book of Leviticus that has been in Bibles for literally thousands of years is actually a fraud. No, seriously. Well, at least the singular most offensive texts of the day -- those prohibitions of homosexual sex.

Apparently really bright scholars have reported in the journal Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel (Vol 6, Number 4) that it is likely that the earliest texts of Leviticus sanctioned same-sex intercourse rather than forbidding it. Now, understand, this is premised absolutely on a concept that Jesus or the writers of the New Testament were not aware of -- that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, the first 5 books of the Bible. Oh, no. As we all know, "Leviticus was created gradually over a long period and includes the words of more than one writer." And "many scholars" are quite sure that the Leviticus 18 and 20 texts were added or altered maybe 100 years after the original ... likely by some homophobic scribe. (I thought it was interesting that these "scholars" did not try the somewhat popular approach that "They were referring to idolatrous sex, not loving same-sex relationships." The author of the piece believed it was abundantly clear that the text in Leviticus clearly forbade same-sex intercourse. He simply intended to show that it shouldn't be in there.)

Now, there are a lot of directions you can go with this. "What makes you so sure it was changed?" "No evidence at all!" "Why didn't Jesus know about this?" "If this was changed, what else was changed?" "Why has no one ever figured this out until modern pro-LGBTQx 'scholars' showed up?" "Can we throw out the rest of the biblical sexual rules?" And more. But there is a bottom line here. If it is true that Leviticus (or any other book) was changed, specifically to say the opposite of what God intended (as opposed to a numerical typo, for instance), then we're done. By "done" I mean we don't have a definitive text, we don't have "God's Word," we don't have a "source code," we don't have an authoritative book. It is now "whatever you think" and, bottom line, not in any way a knowable or believable "Christianity" at all. Which, in the final analysis, is the point. Don't miss that. This isn't a kindly attempt to get us a better text; it is an attempt to eliminate God's Word and God's authority.

Behind the Curtain
New York Governor Cuomo has started advertizing for abortion -- to make it State law that women can kill their babies (in case some new, fictional Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade). At the same time, he pardoned several illegal immigrants guilty of other crimes to help them avoid deportation specifically as an attack on Trump's " policies that rip children out of the arms of their mothers." Because the official policy is "rip 'em from their wombs, but not from their arms." Or "Children are only children when we say they are. Pay no attention to that double standard behind the curtain!"

(The truth, of course, is that the governor is trying to "steal the hearts of the people" away from gubernatorial challenger, Cynthia Nixon, who would love to move New York closer to socialism. She is a self-identified lesbian and a "democratic socialist".)

In a stunning rule of a nation's thinking over the rest of the world, China this week forced U.S. airlines to change their terminology on their web pages to remove all references to "Taiwan." In classic 1984 "newspeak" tradition where thoughts can be controlled by controlling language, China demanded that all references to Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau be listed as a single nation, symbolically forcing Taiwan to be part of China rather than independent. China already refuses diplomatic relations with any country that recognizes the Republic of China (ROC) as a valid government against the wishes of China -- the People's Republic of China (PRC). The airlines -- Delta, American, and United -- changed their websites saying it was merely a word change, but China recognizes it as a symbolic victory of the PRC over the ROC -- and if you don't agree, there will be consequences. (Sound familiar?)

This Means War
The social-media-sphere was angry when they found out that Barcelona's soccer teams -- men's and women's -- both flew to the U.S. together, but the men had business class while the women had economy. Outrageous! Women treated as second class (or is economy third-class?)! Except the women pointed out that the whole trip was planned last minute and "there simply were not enough business class seats on the plane once the women's team joined the tour." Alexia Putellas of the women's team said that "the women's team had been added to the tour at a later date." The women from the team are defending the action and the organization, but it won't matter. Social media outrage is all that matters and this means war!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Perilous Public Transportation

I live and work in a major U.S. city. It is the 5th largest city in the U.S. by population and happens to be in the desert. I work in the city center and I live at the outskirts of the city, so my work is 27 miles from my house, but on paper I live and work in the same city. A year and a half ago I was given the opportunity to "do the right thing" and take a bus from near my house to near my work, so I took it. I mean, it's good economically, environmentally, and all that, right?

On Tuesday I made the news. (Okay, not me, but I was there.) The afternoon bus broke down on the freeway ... in the fast lane ... in the 115° heat ... in the sun. No air conditioning. No windows to open for air. No help. About 10 minutes after our initial demise, the next scheduled bus pulled in front of us to allow us to offload passengers. "Oh," they told us, "this bus only goes to the first bus stop. If you need to go to the others, we won't be going there." Protocol, you know. So those who were going there got off and the rest of us were stuck. They eventually pushed us off to the right side of the road and we sat for nearly an hour and a half while bus after bus drove by without stopping and no help arrived. The highway patrol (DPS) took one woman off for heat stroke. A tow vehicle arrived but couldn't tow the bus because ... you know ... there were still passengers on it. And "for your safety" we were kept on the bus ... in the heat ... without air. "All our personnel followed protocols," the city proudly proclaimed. Six of the passengers actually escaped by calling an Uber to pick them up ... on the freeway. Eventually a bus arrived to take us to safety.

Now, in our part of the world it is a crime to leave a child or a pet in a hot car, but apparently it is perfectly fine to leave a bus full of adults for an extended period of time. Ironically, that's exactly what happened on the very same day, with a very different result. This mother is looking at criminal charges; the city is "sorry."

Well, look, this was terribly dangerous in that heat and irresponsible -- it shouldn't have taken nearly that long to send help -- but it was a one-off, a single event, in fact, an extreme rarity according to the seasoned bus riders. Nothing we can do. Move on.

So I got on the bus on Wednesday with the same driver but a different bus. We got all the way to the second to last stop when the different bus broke down in the intersection. We sat through two lights before he got it to move again. Rather than chance a second disaster, I (and several others) got off, waited in the sun for the next bus (10 minutes or so), and made our way home.

That's odd, of course, but still a statistical anomaly. Let's not blow it out of proportion.

So the bus arrives Thursday morning. In my part of the world in our current heat wave it was 100° at 5 in the morning. And I went to get on the bus only to discover that the air conditioning had failed. And, of course, no windows could be opened. We could expect an hour in a sealed can rising above 100° as we went. I got off and drove to work.

The events caused all sorts of questions for me. When does "do the right thing for the environment" become more dangerous than other alternatives? What recourse do the people of a town, city, state, or nation have in matters like these? (I'm pretty sure there will be no recompense, for instance, for those intrepid passenters who paid for an Uber ride to safety.) They tell me that private transportation is a problem and parking is a major issue and we all need to switch over to public transportation. Is that reasonable if public transportation is free to be random (I can't tell you how many times they've been late or not shown up at all) or even hazardous? Lots of questions.

I know ... not my usual posting. I'm just wondering out loud.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Too Much Gospel

My wife watched me put together my taco -- cheese, meat, lettuce, onions, sauce, cheese, cheese, cheese. "Isn't that a little too much cheese?" she asked. "I'm not sure there's such a thing," I quipped.

But I'm talking now about the gospel. We know what it is, right? Right? I mean, we've heard it, haven't we? We've preached it (Mark 16:15), haven't we? Enough? Too much? Is there such a thing?

The word "gospel" first appears in our English Bibles in Matthew 4:23.
And He (Jesus) went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
In the New Testament in the ESV the word appears 97 times -- 104 in the King James. In the Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (LITV) it is 121 times. The number isn't significant except that it is numerous in all translations. It refers to "good news". And we are commanded to share it. And, look, if it is "good news," why wouldn't we? Do we not want to share good news with any and everyone we can? Well, apparently not.

So, what is this "gospel," this "good news" so good that the concept is repeated so many times in the New Testament as to almost seem annoying -- "too much"? It is not "your best life now," "I'm okay; you're okay," or any of the other common niceties passed around. It is something else entirely. It is not about your present comfort or pleasure. It is something much more.

Paul wrote, "Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you -- unless you believed in vain" (1 Cor 15:1-2). So this should be good. What is the gospel Paul preached?
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me. (1 Cor 15:3-8)
"First importance," Paul says, is the crucifixion, burial, and bodily resurrection of Christ, complete with verifiable witnesses. The good news. Here it is. Jesus Christ, the "form of God" (Phil 2:6), cloaked His form and was sent by God the Father to be born (Luke 1:35), to live the only sinless life ever (2 Cor 5:21), to die for sins (1 Cor 15:3), to be buried (1 Cor 15:4), and to literally rise again (1 Cor 15:4) so that sinners (Rom 3:23) could die with Him and rise again to new life (Rom 6:8; 2 Tim 2:11), absolved of sin (Rom 8:1), filled with righteousness (2 Cor 5:21) and empowered by Him (Phil 2:13). We will, when we die, be with Him (2 Cor 5:8) eternally. Bottom line, the gospel is all about what Christ has done to address our fatal sin problem to make us right with God in Christ, the "author and finisher of our faith" (Heb 12:2) -- Christ, first and last.

That's the gospel. It's really, really big. But, tell the truth -- did you, perhaps, find it a little ... boring? You know, "Been there, heard that." Does that "old, old story" get old? Is there such a thing as "too much gospel"?

If you have to admit that, even if you weren't bored by it, you weren't excited by it either, you (and I) might have a problem. We have a problem with grace. We have a problem with mercy. We don't see the depth of our own depravity, the distance we've fallen short of God's glory, or the supreme length Christ went to resolve that problem and the heights to which we are taken. We're not that bad and He's not that good ... although you and I clearly both that we are that bad and He is that good. The problem, then, is not "too much gospel," but that we miss the vastness and grandeur of it because of our sin condition. There is no such thing as "too much gospel". In the end, there cannot be too much. In the end we ought to be constantly immersed in it, constantly reminded of it, constantly telling and reminding others of it.

Consider this. Our common term for accepting the gospel is we are "saved." What do we mean? If I told you, "I was at the beach and caught in a riptide and the lifeguard saved me," would you think, "How? Did he preach the gospel to you?" No, of course not. You would think that he pulled me out of a bad situation. But when we think about being "saved" by the gospel, do we think of it that way? Usually not. Usually it's just another word for "relationship with Jesus" without thinking from what we've been saved. We don't think of the peril we were in and we don't recognize the magnificence of the gospel. We don't understand the magnitude of being saved. We have, in some sense, "too little gospel."

I don't want you to get the wrong impression. I'm not preaching to you; I'm talking to myself. I'm good at "too much" cheese, but not so good at "too much" (or even "enough") gospel. We all know people who are going to hell. They are family and friends, neighbors and coworkers, atheists and church-goers, practitioners of same-sex sex and heterosexual sex, nice people and not-so-nice -- everyday folk on all sides -- who are going to hell. If you and I are among the few (Jesus's word (Matt 7:14), not mine) who are on the way to heaven, we have an obligation to provide "too much gospel" for others. There are many who need it often. And it's not like the saved don't need it anymore; we need it repeatedly as well. It is "of first importance." It is life.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


Paul wrote,
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor 10:31)
I read, "Big or little, anything at all that you do, do for the glory of God." I think that's a fair assessment. So ... do you? Do I?

I am told that the average adult spends 33 hours a week in front of a television. The average American household has more televisions than people. Nearly a third of American children live in a household where the television is on all or most of the time. We love our TV entertainment. So ... if we are to do everything we do for the glory of God, how do we do that in this?

Entertainment is a standard thing for us. From sports to gaming to reading to socializing to just plain relaxing, we like to be entertained. These are things that are not required by legal or work requirements. They're just the things we do to be amused. Is there any of this done for the glory of God?

A good chunk of our days is typically spent in sleeping and working, plus getting to, from, and ready for them. Is there any way that we can do these for the glory of God?

We interact with all sorts of people in all sorts of situations. Family, friends, strangers, enemies. Close, casual, remote. From "I know you well" to "I don't know you at all." Work, play, in transit, in passing. Is there any thought at all given to doing any of this interaction for the glory of God?

How about the everyday things we have to do? I mean, you don't get to choose whether or not you go to work, for instance. Is there some way to do "driving to work" (or however you get there) for the glory of God? We all need to eat. Can we do it for the glory of God? Each of us needs to get dressed. How would we do it for the glory of God? Cook, clean, household chores, taking care of kids ... for the glory of God?

I see in Paul's exhortation to "do all for the glory of God" an interesting "other side of the coin." "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do," he says. One side of that says to do whatever we do to the glory of God. The other side says that most of what we do can be done for the glory of God. We can eat and drink for the glory of God. We can work, drive, cook, sleep, interact, even entertain ourselves for the glory of God. I read this command not as "Don't do that stuff", but as "Do it with another intention in mind -- the glory of God." I suppose if it can't be done for the glory of God, it would be wrong to do it, but are we thinking at all about doing "whatever you do" for God's glory? We should.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Word Question

Okay, nothing spiritual or controversial or even biblical here. Just a grammar question. Maybe someone smarter than me can help me out here.

I was considering the question, "How do we get past this?" I ran into a problem. Is it "past" or "passed". Now, I understand that "past" refers to time and "passed" is the past tense (ironic, isn't it?) of "pass", referring primarily to geography or location. Even if the quarterback "passed the ball", he moved its location. "Passed" in that instance is correct. So what about our idiom, "to get past something"? "The poor woman couldn't get past her divorce." Or "The poor woman couldn't get passed her divorce"?

I can see the arguments for both versions. You might "get past something" by putting it behind you in time, essentially. Whatever it is, it's "in the past." That works. Or it might be that you're thinking of locale, where "getting passed something" means "moving on."

I've looked online for input and found multiple sources with multiple answers, all adamant and certain. I'm not. Maybe either one could be correct? Does anyone have any helpful insight on this word puzzle?

Monday, July 23, 2018

Motivational Confusion

The other day I was pondering a concept. In a recent church service I had some difficulties with the "order of worship" -- song selection and such. Now, I know that I'm not alone in this line of thinking. Ask any elderly Christian and they'll likely tell you they're having difficulties with modern worship. The music is too loud, the process too performance-oriented, the drums are from Satan, or some such idea. So I asked myself, "Is that my problem? Is that what I'm thinking?" I know that a lot of those who protest current popular worship music and practices often do so on the basis of preference. They don't like the practices because they don't like the style. Some couch it in "holy" terms, but in the end it's not a problem with principle; it's a problem with preference.

A couple weeks ago during a meal with some of our church group a woman was demeaning those who were drinking coffee. "So you like mud, eh?" She clearly didn't like coffee, but beyond that she decided that those who did were not merely different, but wrong. There was even a sense of superiority -- "I know what's good and you don't." That's what I'm talking about. Some protest modern worship practices because they just don't like it, but they assign moral outrage and righteous indignation to their concern not becuase there is genuine biblical principles involved, but because they don't like it.

In our world these days you'll find this a lot, and not just in terms of church worship. I remember a well-known pastor who argued against homosexual behavior by urging us to consider "the ick factor." That is, "If you think about the practice, you'll have to admit it's icky." Maybe. But is that a reason to assign moral values? Is that a reason to say it's wrong? Because to me there are a lot of "icky" things that are not immoral.

It is this idea that causes some of the problems between Christians and the world. When we stand and say, "Repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15), they hear, "I don't like what you're doing ... or you, very much, either." Why? Well, too often it's the truth. People, even Christians, are offering moral judgment based on what they like and don't like and not on any biblical principle -- not on the basis of love. As a result, those who urge repentance and faith out of love for those who are in opposition to God are lumped in with those who are morally outraged by the "ick factor" present in many sins.

How do we get past this? For me, my preferences are irrelevant. If you like coffee or you like sex with the same gender, it doesn't matter what I prefer. There is no need for righteous indignation on my part. If you don't like coffee (I do), I have nothing to say about your preference. If you prefer sex with the same gender, my preference is irrelevant, but I do have something to say: "Repent and believe in the gospel." That's not because of any preference of mine or any moral outrage; it's because the Bible tells me that you're in eternal danger and I don't want bad things to happen to you. How do I and people like me express that without being classified as a "hater", a "bigot", a "homophobe" (the latter of which makes no sense whatsoever)? We are not being hateful or bigoted; we're being concerned.

I consistently find that people lump one in with the other. "You dirty, rotten fundamentalists," they decry (as if there is the possibility of "fundamentalist" being anything other than "dirty" and "rotten" in their view). "You're all haters." Not accurate. But it doesn't matter how often we say it. It doesn't matter that we get accused of unfairly representing those who unfairly represent us in this. It still happens, almost as if "a biblical Christian who loves others" cannot exist at all.

I started with the thought about worship in church. I was not contemplating "the music I like" or style or such. I was wondering what God wanted. "Is this what God has in mind when He commands worship?" Because my preferences do not constitute a moral or spiritual concern on your part. But, like the "same sex" problem or the like, it is nearly impossible to ask, "Is this okay?" from the perspective of "Is this what God would want?" without being perceived as "You're just an old guy who doesn't like new stuff." And I don't really know how to get past this.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

See Him

There is a mysterious verse in 1 John.
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)
The topic is "What we will be has not yet appeared." The conclusion is "We shall be like Him." But the reason given is interesting. "Because we shall see Him as He is." In short, then, "What we shall be is like Him because we shall see Him as He is." That's a little strange. How will seeing Him as He is make us like Him?

I think it goes back to another passage.

In 2 Corinthians Paul is talking about the dichotomy of "the ministry of death" which is the Law of the Old Testament versus the "ministry of righteousness" which is the Gospel (2 Cor 3:9). Paul says the Gospel was present in the Law, but the glory of God in the Gospel was veiled, just like Moses veiled his face (2 Cor 3:10-13). Paul says that in Moses's day "their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away" (2 Cor 3:14). We, therefore, are under a different principle. "When one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed" (2 Cor 3:16). Then we read this:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:17-18)
There it is again. Paul indicates, as John did, that "beholding the glory of the Lord" transforms us. It doesn't just change us arbitrarily. It transforms us "into the same image from one degree of glory to another." Beholding the glory of the Lord changes us into His image.

Oh, now, wait a minute. I think I've seen this elsewhere.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Rom 8:28-29)
There is it again. The aim ("His purpose") is that "those who love God" would "be conformed to the image of His Son."

It appears, then, that if we are to cooperate with God's primary goal of transforming us into the image of His Son, our primary task would be to behold His glory. And since His glory is His primary concern, it ought to be ours. We ought to be peering "through a mirror dimly" (1 Cor 13:12) on a constant basis to discover and enjoy His glory and be transformed by it. We ought to be pursuing the experience of His glory in creation and in His Word at all times so that "we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." This task will be complete "when He appears." I guess we have our marching orders.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

News Weakly - 7/21/18

It Has Come to This
You may not have heard of the company -- I hadn't -- but a startup called WeWork has engaged in social engineering its employees with a new ban: they will not expense meals that include meat. Yes, the company is requiring that their employees and company events be completely vegetarian. If you visit the company as, say, a potential customer, you will not be offered any meat options. Meat is off the table ... literally. Why? "New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact, even more than switching to a hybrid car."

When, do you suppose, governments will follow suit? And where does it end? "Switching to an electric car is better for the environment than not. Switch ... now." Silly? Apparently not. (As an aside, I noted that a co-founder, Miguel McKelvey, said, "In just the three days we are together, we estimate that we can save more than 10,000 animals." Do you suppose Mr. McKelvey is as concerned about saving the lives of unborn children? Just wondering.)

Lots of Democrats, Not Much Democracy
Before 2008, Californians voted to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The California courts outlawed it. In November of 2008, they voted to make that definition a part of their state constitution. The California courts outlawed it. "This is California," they said. "We do not do democracy here!" (Done in the voice of Siegfried from Get Smart.) Okay, no one said it, but the message was clear. And it is again. The California Supreme Court ruled not that the state could not be split into three states, but that the people couldn't vote on it. More than 600,000 Californians signed the petition to put it to a vote, but the court declared "potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot" required that it be removed. In other words, "No, you don't get to vote on it. No, your capability of voting on it is potentially harmful. No, we don't care about what you want." Was it a "wacky California plan"? Perhaps. We'll never know what the people of California thought. There are a lot of Democrats in California, but democracy is not an issue there. (By the way, this isn't new. As it turned out California voters voted on this in 1859 and approved, but Congress never acted on it. "Sorry. We didn't care what you voted then, either.")

A Truly Sad Story
Last week in Portland, OR, Travis and Sarah Mitchell both pleaded guilty to criminal negligent homicide and criminal mistreatment. Sarah had given birth to twins. They were premature. One died and the other lived. The court and medical personnel determined that it was likely that if Sarah and Travis had taken the baby to the hospital, she would have lived. They didn't. That's because they were members of the Followers of Christ Church, a Pentecostal church that refuses medical care and prefers prayer and healing oils. Their failure to seek medical help for the child resulted in a conviction for homicide.

It's sad because the difference between the death of little Ginnifer being a murder or a brave act on the mother's part was a mere matter of hours, a simple act of exiting a birth canal. It's sad because Oregon (most people in America, I suspect -- or the civilized world) doesn't recognize the connection; a baby being pulled from the mother prior to birth is just as much murder as not getting it medical help afterward. It's sad because there are people out there calling themselves "followers of Christ" who think that it is somehow immoral to seek medical help or righteous to avoid it, even if it kills someone. It's sad all the way around.

Social Media Justice
The story is about a Facebook-owned social media app called WhatsApp that allows sharing messages without paying for SMS. The good news is that they will restrict the number of messages that can be forwarded and the number of people to whom they can be forwarded. Good news? I mean, why is that an issue? Because in India the app has been used to cause false stories to go viral and more than 20 people have died from lynching. In one case a 27-year-old man was attacked by a group of 2,000 people after a false rumor was spread by WhatsApp users accusing him of child abduction. The man died, 25 people were arrested, and 3 policemen and 2 of his friends were injured. Social media justice.

Free speech is all well and good, but most of the rights we hold dear carry with them personal responsibility and a demand for a moral grounding that, if not present, can turn them into dangerous weapons. In this case, the solution is ... slow the speed of the lies? We really don't have a clue, do we?

Hollywood Shenanigans
You heard, I would guess, about the kerfuffel over Actress Scarlett Johansson having the audacity to play a transgender massage parlor owner, Dante "Tex" Gill, when she herself was not actually transgendered. Fortunately, with all the backlash, she opted out. But she didn't learn from her mistake and now she's under fire for agreeing to play a sandworm in the upcoming Dune reboot even though she isn't one of those, either.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Bonus Point
I enjoyed this quote.
The coming ice age is coming, the globe is warming, and the science is settled, no, wait. Turns out the globe got so hot it cooked the books” (Confessions of a Food Catholic, p. 143).

Friday, July 20, 2018


What is megalomania? The dictionary says it is "a delusional mental illness that is marked by feelings of personal omnipotence and grandeur." Some of the Roman emperors were megalomaniacs. They demanded to be worshiped as gods. Hitler was a classic megalomaniac. He sought to rule the world, eliminate all non-Aryans, and create the 1000 year Reich. I think a lot of people would agree that Donald Trump is a megalomaniac. He has an obsession with power, delusions of being more important than he is, and adamant that all agree with him about how powerful and important he and his ideas are. I think that most would agree that these are delusions, not reality.

And, of course, the accusation is out there quite often that God is a megalomaniac. I mean, look at the facts. He demands obedience. His primary concern is His own glory. He ranks our primary failure as falling short of His own glory. He classifies violating His glory as a crime punishable by eternal torment. He demands worship. Aren't these the clear symptoms of megalomania?

There is a fundamental difference between your standard narcissistic megalomaniac and God. Can you guess what it is? I stated it in the first paragraph. "I think that most would agree that these are delusions, not reality." The fundamental difference between your standard megalomaniac and God is His view reflects reality. Roman emperors were not gods; God is. Hitler did not rule the world; God does. Donald Trump's obsession with power and the importance of who he is is not real; God's is. And so it goes. God is not a megalomaniac because God's view of His greatness and glory and importance and power is accurate.

"Okay, fine," some might respond, "but why all the demand for praise and such? Isn't that a bit over the top?"

Our problem here is that we think of God as a man, just like us. He's not. He actually is "holy, holy, holy" (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8), Sovereign (1 Tim 6:15), worthy of praise (2 Sam 22:4; Psa 18:3; Rev 4:11) and more. To a megalomaniac we might say, "You think you're all that, but you're not." He really is "all that".

C.S. Lewis pointed out another aspect of this concept. It is true that God is indeed the ultimate in glory. Not a megalomaniac. But Lewis suggested another reason why God demands praise. It's not for Himself. Lewis said that humans have this particular inborn mechanism in us that requires, in order for us to enjoy something, that we express it. You can see this in a simple interaction with a lover and his love. He sees her and cannot help but say, "You are so beautiful." If he keeps it to himself, he is stifled. The expression is required to fulfill the enjoyment of the love. Lewis says that God demands that we praise Him in order that we might be fulfilled in our joy in Him. I think that's there, too.

We know of megalomaniacs. We might even know some personally. They have and do exist. God, on the other hand, differs completely with that category in that God is indeed as glorious as He thinks He is. For Him to be "humble" as we might expect of others would simply be a lie. He is the ultimate good. And, in order to complete the joy of His creation, He requires that we express that truth, not as a harsh command, but as a gift to us. Thus, when we fall short of His glory (Rom 3:23), it is to our own detriment.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Basic Principles

In life, everyone has principles. We live by principles (which doesn't declare them good or bad) by which we make our choices, have our worldviews, call good "good" and bad "bad", derive morality and values, etc. These principles are typically varied, often unconscious, and always prioritized. That is, when one principle overlaps another, one of the two will have a higher priority. Thus, at the top (bottom?) of this chain is what I'm calling "basic principles." Do you know what yours are or where they come from?

Let me illustrate. Let's say that Bob (not you, Bob ... a fictitious Bob) has a principle of "Live and let live." Thus, as he goes about his day he will likely leave people to their own devices. Then he comes across an accident and stops to help someone injured in the wreck. "Wait," someone might say, "isn't that a violation of his 'live and let live' outlook?" Yes, but clearly our friend, Bob, has a more basic principle in play here that says you help people when you can. So with a clearer idea of Bob's principles, we watch him walk by a homeless guy on the street asking for money. "Hey, wait! Didn't we just say that he has a 'help people when you can' principle?" Yes ... yes we did. But a more basic principle for Bob is "Me first," and Bob felt that giving this guy money would be too costly to Bob's comfort, so he didn't. Perhaps you get the idea now.

Everyone has principles. There is a bottom set of principles with others higher up by which we determine in a case-by-case basis what we will value and do and think. For many the most basic value is always and only "Me first." For others there is an element of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." There is, beyond these, some variation. But the most basic principles inform the rest.

It is my aim that my bottom "basic principle" would be "whatever God says." Others have a different bottom "basic principle." How do I know this? Well, it's not rocket surgery. (I said that for a laugh, not unintentionally.) There are a larger number of unbelievers than believers. These would be classified as "hostile to God" (Rom 8:7-8) and have no genuine concern about "whatever God says." But even among those who call themselves "believers" there is a significant number who do not have that bottom "basic principle." How do I know? They demonstrate it often.

Consider. In a recent event a church leader was accused of covering up a rape. The Bible (God's Word) says, "Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses" (1 Tim 5:19) which is unambiguous and easy to grasp, but this leader was professionally executed without a trial because the more basic principle in play is "If it's an accusation of impropriety between a man and a woman, the man needs to suffer the consequences." In other words, "I'll go along with God's clear statements unless I find a moral principle that overrules it." It doesn't take a "fundamentalist" to see this. Everywhere you look you will find self-identified Christians consciously tossing out absolutely clear Scripture because they find a moral principle that overrules God's Word. Christians will tell you, "I don't need some Bible to tell me what's right or wrong" in direct contradiction to the Bible (Jer 17:9). It is abundantly clear, then, that these people do not have "whatever God says" as their bottom line.

This explains a lot in today's "war against the Word." Most people are applying their bottom "basic principle" to the Scriptures rather than vice versa. They have the idea that there are values and morals and beliefs that the Scriptures must meet or Scripture will be eliminated. They will tell you, "I believe the Bible" and even "I hold it in high regard," but when push comes to shove, "what I think is right" overrides what Scripture says. Conversely, a when a person who has a "whatever God says" outlook comes across a conflict between "what I think is right" and Scripture, they will pursue at all costs "whatever God says" even if it means that they decide "What I thought was right apparently wasn't." They will dig down to discover what God thinks is right at the cost of their own value system in an attempt to align their basic principles with God's principles.

Unfortunately, this is not very common. But, then, it's what you would expect (Matt 7:13; Mark 8:18; 1 Cor 2:14; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:1, etc.).

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Why the Bible?

Jiminy Cricket said we should "Always let your conscience be your guide." Ah, the wisdom of Disney. Me? I tend to not trust my conscience as much as I do God's Word. I prefer to let the Scriptures be my guide. This, of course, makes me a sort of oddity. No one does that anymore. Well, of course, not no one, but certainly very few. Because, as we all know, the Bible just ain't what it used to be. Okay, that's not accurate either. But it's surely not what the Church has always contended -- the Authoritative, Infallible Word of God; the sole authority on matters of faith and practice. So I buck the trend to marginalize the Bible and prefer not to stand on my own understanding but on God's Word for my understanding of God and for the principles by which I live.

But, why? Why would I do that? Why would anyone do that? Why did Christians from the beginning of the Scriptures do that? Why would anyone think that the Bible was some sort of special book that is the authoritative, infallible Word of God? Let me give you some reasons.

1. God is Sovereign.
He is the Sovereign. As Creator and Master, He is a) absolutely perfect, truthful, good, omnipotent, omniscient, unchanging, etc., and b) the ultimate Authority.

2. God breathed.
The Bible claims that "All Scripture is God-breathed" (2 Tim 3:16). Older translations say "All Scripture is inspired by God." This isn't quite accurate. In today's vernacular one could reasonably say, "I know things about God and I'm inspired by God to write." Inspire means literally "to breathe in." In the original Greek, however, the word is the opposite term. It is to breathe out. It indicates a direct effort on God's part to those who were writing to breathe into them His Word. As such, Scripture is God's "breathed out" Word, His superintended, personal message to His creation.

3. The Bible is God's message to us.
Divinely exhaled, superintended, and protected, the Bible constitutes God's eternal words to His people. If I concur that God is the Master, the Lord, then I must concur that His words are authoritative, infallible truth.

The Bible has meaning. Not ambiguous, relative, or purely personal. When the words in our Scriptures were written they were written with a meaning they (the authors at God's behest) wished to convey. "We can't know for sure what they mean," some tell me. "The meaning changes over time," others argue. "The Bible is God's Word, but interpretation is personal," they assure me. All of this gets back to the original source. God didn't explain it well enough. God didn't provide us the Spirit He promised. God didn't know what it would become. God isn't wise enough to say what He means and mean what He says. We, as fallible human beings, will always differ over this minor point here or that small issue there, but if Jesus is to be believed, we have the Spirit that all believers have and on all the essential issues we all agree.

You can use your mere intellect and come up with you want. You can use your post-modern philosophy and argue there is no meaning but what we assign. You can use false humility and argue that interpretation is never sure ... and you're sure. All of it echoes Satan's words to Eve. "Did God really say ...?" And you would necessarily have to agree with him. I can't go that way. I don't trust the Bible; I trust the One who breathed it, Who supervised its creation, Who oversaw its existence over the millennia, Who gave the Spirit to explain it. You rely on the wisdom of the world and your jaded intellect; I'll go with God's Word.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Pretty Wrapping

The box is sitting on your front doorstep when you get home. You weren't expecting it. You didn't order anything. You wonder what it could be. You take it inside. The box is wrapped in pretty paper complete with a bow on top. Some sort of gift, apparently. So you tear into it and immediately head to the bathroom to stop the bleeding because it turned out to be full of broken glass and you're bleeding now. Now, stop and rewind that story. The box at your doorstep is not wrapped in pretty paper. It has markings like "Danger" and "Handle with Care." Now you don't rip it open; you open it with caution. Why? Because the box is properly marked to warn you. Life is like that. We are constantly given dangerous things with ambivalent markings and we might carelessly injure ourselves because we aren't paying attention.

What am I talking about? Well, Scripture is clear that the world is opposed to Christ (e.g., John 15:18; 1 John 5:19; Rom 8:5-8). This box has been packaged for us with careful and clear warnings. "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15) But Satan has packaged the world so nicely. How can it be wrong?

This is the approach that Satan used in Eden. He wasn't loud, rude, or offensive. He was subtle, friendly, enticing. He was "on Eve's side." "Did God actually say you couldn't eat from any tree in the garden?" (Gen 3:1). She corrected him, but he wasn't done. "You were misinformed. You won't actually die" (Gen 3:4). "I'm on your side," he was telling her. "I don't want you to miss out on all the good stuff. God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God" (Gen 3:5). Colorful wrapping, friendly demeanor, an "it's all good" approach, and Adam and Eve brought sin into the world.

So we fall for it. A lot. We know that the world system is not our friend, but we smuggle it in every chance we get. We open the window of our minds through the television and movies and music and entertainment. "It won't do any harm; it's just entertainment." And it lies to us ... constantly. With pretty pictures and fun storylines and pretty funny humor it feeds us lies from Hell and we ... swallow. We know that God's Word is true and trustworthy and authoritative, but you have to admit that "God loves everyone, so He embraces our sin as well" sounds much more heartwarming than "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:5). So we buy the first and ignore the second ... the truth. Which is "kinder and gentler": "We want all people regardless of sexual immoralities, to feel loved and encouraged" or "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?" (1 Cor 6:9)? So we diminish the latter because the former is packaged much better.

We tend to be mindless at times. We miss the clear warnings of God's Word and operate on our emotional intuition. "My, my, doesn't this look pretty?" So we tear into this nicely wrapped box offered on our favorite sitcom or that heartwarming message of acceptance of the sins God forbids and we find ourselves lacerated and bleeding -- sometimes so skillfully that we don't recognize the injury. That's why we are told, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). "Test everything; hold fast what is good" (1 Thess 5:21). Don't be fooled by "an angel of light" (2 Cor 11:14).

Monday, July 16, 2018

God, the Father

I told you about the news item where The Episcopal Church is about to revise the Common Book of Prayer to eliminate God as "Father" -- to make God gender neutral. I told you that it wasn't new, that the Church of Sweden had already discouraged the use of "Lord" and the male pronoun in reference to God. The point in these efforts is not to make our references to God more biblical or more in line with how He has revealed Himself to the human race. It is ostensibly to be "more inclusive," to offer a "variety of gender-neutral options," to "modernise." It is nothing but an assault started by radical feminists on any perceived masculine preference anywhere. It is clearly an effort to erase the obvious patriarchical structure of Scripture (e.g., 1 Cor 11:3) and to eliminate biblical gender and sexuality norms. Essentially, it is "The Bible is outdated and we need to fix it." This is nothing more nor less than "Did God say ...?" And we recognize that voice; that voice was in the Garden of Eden.

But the question remains. Who cares? I mean, setting aside the attack on God's Word and putting on hold the traditions from the start of God as Father, does it really matter? We know, from Scripture, that "God it not a man" (Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29; Job 9:32) (which, by the way, is not a disclaimer of being male, but of being human). We can be confident that, although Jesus was certainly male, "God is spirit" (John 4:24), so He doesn't actually have male body parts. He is not, then, actually the male-gendered physical human being we think of when we use the term "father." (By the way, in all this wrangling to make God gender-neutral, these groups miss entirely the Trinity which includes God the Father, God the Spirit, and God the Son and thus the entire actual maleness of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, in the flesh. That is, if Jesus is God the Son, God is still male.) We know that there are biblical references to God in female terms (e.g., Deut 32:18). (Note: There are lots of other biblical comparisons of God to mothers -- the phrase typically used is "like a mother" -- but these can't be construed as saying God is a mother.) So, with all this biblical support for God not being male, why bother defending the term "God the Father"? What difference does it make if (so-called) churches eliminate the term?

The first, easiest answer is "because it's in there." Or, more like you might hear from a father, "Because I said so." The Bible is full of references to God as Father, and they aren't ambiguous. We didn't make it up. It is possible, for instance, to argue that some of the references to males in the New Testament should actually be references to husbands, not general males. The same is not true in the words used for "Father". Then there's the simple fact that the reference of God as "Father" comes not from preferences or mere words, but from Jesus Christ ... you know, the One from whom we derive the term, "Christian." We know that Jesus was the Son of God and God was indeed His Father, but Jesus told His disciples to use the term, too (Matt 6:9). The Greek is πατήρ -- patēr -- and cannot be misunderstood to mean anything less than "male ancestor" or "progenitor." He told His disciples, "I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" (Matt 5:44-45). So Jesus refers to God the Father as the Father of His spiritual children as well. That is, if we're going to erase God as Father, we'll need to do it against plain biblical texts in general and specific statements from Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.

Still, is that all there is? I mean, that should be enough, but is there more?

In the birth of Christ, we have a very clear problem. There is a mother -- a clearly human female mother -- but the male half of that process is not a human male. Joseph is not the guy. Instead, it is God. In this God is absolutely the Father of the Son of God. This is not insignificant.

So clear is the biblical imagery of God as Father that some have mistakenly argued that a clear parallel of Christianity and all religions is the Universal Fatherhood of God and the Universal Brotherhood of Man. This isn't accurate in a scriptural sense -- we are adopted into God's family and the common use of the term "brothers" in the New Testament is a reference to those in the faith, not all human beings. But it is quite clear that God is an overall Father.

In more than one instance a particular term is used in reference to God that takes this imagery a step further. Jesus started it in His Gethsemane prayer. "Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will" (Mark 14:36) But Paul carried it on (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). In all three cases, the two terms -- "Abba" and "Father" -- are stuck together. That is, even if you could wrangle a "Father could mean any parent" out of patēr, it is clear that both Jesus and Paul used "Abba" in reference to God the Father and "Abba" is nothing more or less than "Daddy." Never anything else. It is a familiar, loving term for a familiar, loving father.

Some have suggested that the concept of God as Father is a New Testament invention, so to speak. It came from Jesus (obviously). This isn't accurate. We read in Isaiah, "But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand" (Isa 64:8). In the Song of Moses we find, "Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you" (Deut 32:6). It is a repeated Old Testament theme as well.

But ... why "Father"? Won't any parent figure do? No, I don't think so. "Father" carries significant connotations. The father is to be the primary provider; God is our primary provider (Heb 13:20-21). The father is to be the stronger parent; God is our strongest parent (Psa 37:39). As the stronger one, the father provides protection; God is our protector (2 Thess 3:3). In the normal parenting structure, the father (especially biblically) is the responsible party, the "head of household"; God is the head (1 Cor 11:3). Biblically fathers are held responsible for educating the children; God is our teacher (Psa 32:8). It is typically the father who disciplines the children; God chastens the ones He loves (Heb 12:5-6).

There is one other aspect that I need to point out. More of a human one, actually. Scripture clearly presents God as Father. Jesus said it. The Old and New Testaments both agree. One primary objection to this is that, frankly, fathers are not what they ought to be. Some have complained, "How does God as Father do me any good when my father was so bad?" There are two answers to this problem. First, we all know what a good father looks like. The fact that some of us have had bad fathers does not negate the fact that we know what a good father should be, and God is the best of Fathers, so it remains meaningful. Second, with God as Father, He stands as an example of what human fathers should strive to be. Remove that position and you remove the challenge to human fathers.

I've offered plenty of reasons why God is Father and ought to be. They are, of course, primarily biblical reasons. I think, however, that the first is the most compelling: Because He said so. Now, some might still be inclined to be argumentative. "God doesn't have male body parts, so we shouldn't offer this option at all." These are factious people, demanding changes to Scripture and tradition without anything more than a selfish, sinful basis. I will offer Paul's response. "Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned" (Titus 3:10-11). I'm going to need better than "We need to be more inclusive by rejecting Scripture" and "It's time to change the Bible because we know better now."

So, this morning in my reading I came across this.
And if you call on Him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:17-19)
Clearly Peter understood that Christians were to "call on Him as Father." Connected to that, notice two features. First, based on calling on Him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, the expectation would be they would conduct themselves with fear -- respect due a Father who judges. Second, note the connection of calling Him "Father" and "ransomed from the futile ways." The implication seems abundantly clear. If you don't call on Him as Father, there is no reasonable expectation of respect or redemption.

Sunday, July 15, 2018


Paul wrote, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil 1:21). I always thought that was a bit odd. I get "to die is gain." That is, "When I die I will be in heaven, in the presence of Christ. I will be free from the miseries of this world and free from the propensity to sin and free from all sadness -- eternal bliss. An eternity with Christ. Gain." I get that. But "to live is Christ" seemed a bit elusive, both in its language and in its intent.

The language strikes me as odd. I would understand "to live for Christ" or something, but this phrase appears to suggest that Paul's living is Christ. Beyond that, what is he trying to say?

We would tend to think that Paul is saying that, in some sense, it is Christ-like to live a particular way. We generally think that Paul is saying that we live for Christ and dying is gain. Given the language, I think he's saying something more. I think he's saying that living is Christ. We see this in Galatians. "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal 2:20). "It is no longer I who live, but Christ." We see this in Romans. "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Rom 6:11). "Alive to God in Christ Jesus." It's there in Colossians. "To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col 1:27). "Christ in you." It's in Philippians. "It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil 2:13). That is, repeatedly, the Christian life is Christ in you. He lives, He empowers, He enables -- "to live is Christ."

It's interesting, then, that the two sides -- live or die -- end up as the same thing. We live by means of Christ; we die to be with Christ. It's not like one is better than the other. It's that one is sort of simply a geographical location change. One is Christ living within you and the other is Christ living with you. Truly a win-win!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

News Weakly - 7/14/18

Who's Looking Out for the Children?
Unbelievable. A 16-year-old Japanese boy just out of junior high was signed by the Kansas City Royals to a 7-year minor league baseball contract. Oh, and they threw in a $322,500 signing bonus.

Who's looking out for this kid? Where are the parents? Who thinks that giving up a basic education is the best thing for a child? What idiot in the Royals' organization thought this was a good idea? I know a 13-year-old that believes he doesn't need to go to school anymore; he's going to be rich doing YouTube videos. Don't count on it. This Japanese kid has a decent fastball, but how is not finishing his basic education any better than my 13-year-old friend?

Next Nominee
So, President Trump has offered his nominee for the Supreme Court. Brett Kavanaugh is Trump's first choice. Of course, as USA Today puts it, "Let the pitched, partisan battle begin." "Most Republicans are expected to support Kavanaugh, while most Democrats will almost certainly vote against him." What's the issue? Well, of course, Kavanaugh is a conservative, so the Democrats will be on the warpath. They'll want to ensure that no candidate offered by Trump is unduly influenced by the Constitution. (Must be true; I read it on the Internet.) Seriously, Chuck Schumer says if Kavanaugh is confirmed, "women's reproductive rights would be in the hands of five men on the Supreme Court."

Excuse me, Mr. Schumer. Since Kavanaugh is replacing a male, haven't they always been in the hands of five men on the Supreme Court? What he meant to say, you see, is that they will be "in the hands of five men we don't like."

Johnnie Moore, "an informal spokesman for the group of evangelicals who advise Trump," tweeted, "Evangelicals are singing `Hallelujah!'" Not all, Mr. Moore. Some of us don't put our trust in princes, so to speak. (Note: The Left is upset about Kavanaugh because he is opposed to the Affordable Care Act and abortion and such while the Right is upset with him because he isn't sufficiently opposed to the Affordable Care Act and abortion. Go figure.)

The deadline for reuniting children with parents from the "zero-tolerance" situation is fast approaching. They're estimating that only half of the families will be reunited by the deadline.

I think it's ironic that so many are outraged by Immigration "ripping children from their mothers' arms" but adamant that ripping them from their mothers' wombs is perfectly acceptable.

Editing Jesus
Carl Trueman starts his article about the political correctness purge in society today with a great sentence.
Yesterday's harmless activity — say, boys-only scouting — is tomorrow's act of cisgendered heteronormative patriarchal oppression of the Other.
I don't know whether to be impressed or depressed that I know what every one of those words mean. And my defense mechanism is to laugh because, well, it's so crazy although it's true. What is he writing about?

"The Episcopal Church is set to debate the gender of God, specifically whether the Supreme Being is male or gender-neutral." Ostensibly, the story is that the Episcopal Church intends to revise their Book of Common Prayer. The book withstood centuries with minimal changes. The 20th century brought big changes. Now they're planning to correct Jesus who called God "Father" (Luke 1:1-4) and protect liturgy for "the earth and same-sex marriage ceremonies." But they're just keeping up with the Swedes. "Last year, the Church of Sweden updated its rules on God's gender, dropping the words 'He' and 'Lord' from clergy usage." Because, clearly, a "heavenly Father" who is Lord is "cisgendered heteronormative patriarchal oppression of the Other." Shame on Jesus! (How do they call themselves "Christian"?)

And there it is
Because of the horror of "ripping children from their mother's arms", the cries have been getting louder. Now the Democrats have responded. Now they're pushing to abolish ICE. Now, keep in mind, there is the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and there is the border patrol. The border patrol operates within 100 miles of the border. The rest is up to ICE. All the laws about illegal immigrants outside of the 100-mile limit, all the laws about guns, money, drugs, smuggling, human trafficking, sexual exploitation of women and children connected to illegal immigrants are enforced by ICE.

So, we get it. The Democrats want to "keep us safe" by eliminating the law enforcement arm that keeps people safe from smugglers, human traffickers, and all that. Fine, if that's what you want. I say, however, that simply eliminating the enforcement of the law is pointless. It effectively eliminates the law. But, hey, if that's what you think will keep us safe, why stop there? Eliminate border enforcement. Remove police departments. Shut down the FBI. Why stop so short?

People who seek to remove law enforcement without changing laws or offering protection are not your friends.

Too Much Me Too
Henry Cavill, the actor who played Superman in Man of Steel, got himself in trouble with the #MeToo movement. He said, "I think a woman should be wooed and chased, but maybe I’m old-fashioned for thinking that." He went to say that it's difficult to do that these days because in today's #MeToo environment "I don’t want to go up and talk to her, because I’m going to be called a rapist or something." And social media went wild. So, being the good, but apparently wimpy "Man of Steel" that he played, he apologized.

Never mind the fact that today's environment actually is so vague that just about any male-female interaction has the potential of being called "harassment." One woman filed a sexual harassment claim because "He didn't like my ideas because I'm a woman." Since today's sexual harassment is defined as "unwanted, unwelcomed and uninvited behavior that demeans, threatens or offends the victim," the definition and application has become too broad to anticipate. The problem with that is 1) it weaponizes #MeToo to force apologies when no wrongdoing was done and, worse, 2) detracts from the genuine problem of sexual harassment. Not the outcome they should want.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Deny Yourself

Jesus was clear. "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (Luke 9:23) Not ambiguous at all. But ... what did He mean?

The monks thought He meant "Deny yourself any pleasures, possessions, comforts, whatever you may want." That doesn't quite work out, though. Do you know why?

Jesus went on to say,
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:24-27)
Do you see the problem? If "Deny yourself" is meant to convey, "Don't give yourself any pleasures, possessions, comforts, or joy," then why is Jesus telling them to avoid doing things that will lose them things and to do things that will gain them things? If "Deny yourself" means that you should lose your life, in essence, then Jesus's first sentence would have the opposite meaning. "Whoever would save his life will lose it" would mean, "Do that" because, after all, we're denying ourselves.

No, that notion is mistaken. Over and over we are told to make choices to our benefit and to avoid choices to our disadvantage. It's just that those choices to our benefit or disadvantage are not the natural choices of everyday people. The clear fact is that Jesus intended that we would have benefit. There are lots of rewards in Scripture which, if the aim was to deny ourselves any benefit, would be contradictory.

So, if "Deny yourself" does not mean "Don't look for any good for yourself," what does it mean? Paul carries the thought forward in Romans.
So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Rom 8:12-13)
He contrasts living by the Spirit and living according to the flesh. If by the Spirit, "You are putting to death the deeds of the body." And what are those deeds?
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21)
What is in view, then, is not to deny self everything, but to set aside old desires and pleasures and replace them with God. It isn't "nothing"; it is "something else entirely."

In Philippians 3 Paul details his reasons "for confidence in the flesh" -- the things that are in his favor (Phil 3:3-6). He has righteousness under the law, birthright, a "Hebrew of Hebrews," knows the law ("a Pharisee"), zeal ... he is "blameless." These he does not list as "bad". He does not suggest "Get rid of them." What he says is "Whatever gain I had" (referring to all of these as "gain") "I counted as loss for the sake of Christ" (Phil 3:7). Since he lists them as gain, in what sense are they loss? "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil 3:8). That is denying self. It is not that we can't have nice things, whether it is physical comforts or education or possessions or anything at all of this world. It's that nothing of this world compares to "the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus." It is placing all that is of this world in a lower category of "gain" -- so as to be "loss" -- in view of the absolute value of a living relationship with Christ.

Not having nice things, then, is not in view in Jesus's "Deny yourself." Not valuing them is. It is, in fact, a complete realignment of what we value. It is a putting to death of "the works of the flesh" in favor of the work of the Spirit. It is classifying what everyone around considers "really, really good" as loss in comparison to knowing Christ. It is death to the fleshly values and a new life in heavenly values. If we are unwilling to do that, dying daily, we are not able to be disciples of Christ.

Thursday, July 12, 2018


I have often referenced or quoted 2 Cor 4:4.
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:4)
It speaks of a group of people who are mentally blinded. They don't see "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." They don't see that Christ is "the image of God." Who are these people? Context might help.
But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:2-4)
Paul speaks of renouncing "underhanded ways." He was not willing to operate disgracefully or practice cunning. He offered only "the open statement of the truth." What else was he unwilling to do? He renounced tampering with the word of God.

Different versions offer different phrases. The King James says "handling the word of God deceitfully." Young's Literal Translation says "deceitfully using the word of God." New American Standard refers to "adulterating the word of God." The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible talks about "corrupting the word of God." I'd try to tell you which one it was, except it looks like they all agree. It is the twisting of God's Word in view here. Paul wasn't willing to do that.

I wish that was so today. I wish people who call themselves Christians would renounce tampering with the word of God. But they don't. They assure us that Genesis is myth although all New Testament writers reference it as reality. They assure us that you can't take those Old Testament stories as true stories even though the language is historical, not metaphorical, and the New Testament claims those stories are "God-breathed" (2 Tim 3:16). They insist that you can't take a standard approach to biblical texts and you can't -- you mustn't -- assume it is understandable and applicable to all people. "You can't speak for God," they tell us even though God has breathed the Scriptures so that we could hear Him speak. "It's not a book of rules," they demand although it is full of rules, even rules they require of others. So they "tamper with God's word" with impunity. They tinker with it and suggest new understanding and new insights into what should have been understood throughout Church history.

In Psalm 1 we read,
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. (Psa 1:1-2)
We see here two types of people in contrast. One is the blessed man and the other is all the rest. What distinguishes the blessed man from the rest? He doesn't hang with the wicked, spend time in the way of sinners, or sit with scoffers. Those are the negatives. On the positive side, he delights in God's Word -- spends a lot of time in it. We currently live in a world that is built on the advice of the wicked, the methods of sinners, and the place of scoffers. They occupy places of wealth and influence and even dominant places in churches. They are the ones that have not renounced underhanded ways or corrupting God's word. They don't delight in the Scriptures. They barely tolerate them, if at all.

There are, according to Paul, people whose minds are blinded. It's a biblical fact. You should check yourself. Are you willing to tamper with God's word? Are you happy with adulterating God's word by subjecting it to the world's own standards? Or is it your aim to agree with God in His word as demonstrated by the work of the Holy Spirit as you read the text and align it with the context for all of Scripture along with the Spirit's work through all of history? Wow, that's a long aim ... but a good one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


You're sure to have heard by now of the Revoice conference to be held in a St. Louis PCA church later this month. The stated aim is "Supporting, encouraging, and empowering gay, lesbian, same-sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality." It's called "a new conversation." Now, I would like to think that the way we support, encourage, and empower Christians who suffer from sinful attractions so they can "flourish while observing the historic, Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality" would be ... you know ... to support, encourage, and empower them to repent of their sinful attractions and pursue obedience ... you know ... like historic Christianity suggests. I think it's quite clear that this won't happen at the Revoice conference. The aim is to, well, make them feel better. What are their unique contributions to the church? How can they mortify their desire while embracing who they are? Repent and turn? No, no, that's not in view here.

Why is this so hard to see? Try this from another direction. In what other mode of sin does this work? "I'm a Pedophile Christian, but I'm mortifying my desires. I know the practice is sinful, so I don't practice it. There's nothing wrong with the desire as long as I don't actually act on it. I just need to feel welcomed and embraced in my orientation as a Pedophile Christian." That makes no sense. That flies in the face of Scripture in general and Jesus's teachings in particular. Nowhere do we find instructions to do anything like, "Embrace the sexually immoral believer who embraces his sexual immorality but is not practicing it" or "Welcome the Racist Christian who works hard at not being racist." We are commanded to "put to death the deeds of the body" (Rom 8:13), to "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you" (Col 3:5) -- a list which includes "sexual immorality," "passion," and "evil desire". This is nothing like what's being suggested in the Revoice conference.

How does this happen? How does what is ostensibly a good church (The PCA is generally a good denomination.) end up hoping to encourage "evil desires" while (hopefully) hoping they won't act on them? How do we get to that from "die to self"? We get there by buying a worldly worldview and then feeding it back into our doctrines. We get there by "feeling warmly toward" people in need like they truly are without considering the biblical commands about it. We get there by allowing the world to dictate the language we use, like "LGBT Christians", as if Christians can be identified by their sinful predilections. Without a solid footing and a solid relationship with Christ, this is where we end up -- a depraved mind in a Christian suit. This is what "conformed to this world" rather than "transformed by the renewing of the mind" (Rom 12:2) looks like.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Is This Really the Aim?

I was reading an AP article about the reality that parents likely don't know what their kids are doing on their smartphones, tablets, or other devices and I started to wonder what software is available that would allow a parent to monitor that stuff. In my search the first one that came up was a Norton product called Norton Family Premier. It's supposed to help you monitor and protect your kids from predators. I got stopped from examining it further, however, because of the picture that was on the page.
The picture shows two young kids, each with their own device, completely immersed in whatever it is they're doing on those things. And a couple of thoughts struck me. I wondered if this is in the best interest of children so young, being so attached to such technology. I thought that it was sad that two what appeared to be brothers, maybe even twins, would be so involved with their devices that they didn't seem to notice that the other was there. I wondered who was watching. Who was watching what they were looking at? Who was watching who they were interacting with (since it wasn't each other and it wasn't anyone in the room)? Who was watching them (because it is so common today for cameras to be hijacked)? Who was keeping them safe and verifying the quality and value of what they were doing? Anyone?

In earlier times poor, blighted parents were stuck with the horrible task of watching their own children or, perhaps, getting some other person to do it. Then they invented that wonderful "babysitter", television. Now we could plop those empty heads down in front of the electro-nanny and let them be. The fact that their young brains were being shaped by the media of the screen and their young minds were being taught by those over whom we had no control or input didn't matter. Parents were free. Now we have the ultimate in distraction. We can give these new machines to our little children, confident that they won't go places they shouldn't go, see things they shouldn't see, interact with people who would do them harm, and learn stuff they shouldn't learn because, well, we gave these devices to them. What could go wrong?

Is this really a good plan? Is this really what we're hoping for? Is this really what we think is best for our kids?